What do we do with Unfair?

After writing about the unfairness of life last week I  posted a question on Facebook about why life isn’t fair. I was surprised at the varying response I got.  Some answers suggested that life is fair and when we think otherwise, we are just looking at it the wrong way—like it’s our understanding of fair that is off. Others said, much as I wrote last week, that we should be thankful it’s not fair. And still others said, life isn’t fair because of sin in the world.

I can’t subscribe to the view that life actually is fair and it’s my own misconceptions about what fair is that mess me up. Fair means in accordance with the rules; legitimate. Now in the sense that the whole world is subject to the laws of nature, we see fair.

But often things in life do not follow or line up with the rules. And no amount of pretending or ignoring will change that. Hitler and Stalin are modern-day examples of evil men whose actions were incredibly unfair. Let’s be clear, their unfair actions resulted in unfair consequences for individuals who had no say. To this day people are affected by their evil and unfair choices. And lest we ignore these examples because they didn’t happen on our soil, consider our own history. The racial rift we experience today is because of the incredibly unfair treatment of thousands of human beings over the course of nearly one hundred years of nation’s existence. This world is not fair and the consequences gush out of the unfair harsh actions of sinful man onto the “innocent” masses of future generations.  I think it’s pretty obvious that because of sin, life isn’t fair.

It also should be noted that not all bad things are unfair. In accordance with the rules, punishment is fair when it is deserved. Peter talks about this in his epistle, saying that if you are punished for doing evil, you receive what you deserve, whereas if you are punished for doing good, you are blessed by God. What!? Wait a minute! Does this mean that God blesses those who suffer unfairly? That’s what Peter is saying in 1 Peter 3: 14-15. Peter doesn’t waste a lot of time explaining that life isn’t fair. Instead he tells his readers how to deal with unfair—which is probably a better place for us to focus too. So since we know life is unfair, how do we respond to that? Here’s what Peter had to say:

  1. God will bless you when you receive evil for doing good. So if you are living a holy life and you suffer for it, that’s unfair! But don’t be traumatized by the unfairness, instead wait for God’s blessing.
  2. Honor God in your heart even when you are suffering.
  3. Be ready to answer people who ask you why you are still hopeful when life is so unfair! Yep, the unfairness of life is our chance to shine as beacons of Jesus toward a better hope, a better life, a better future.
  4. Don’t be ashamed for your suffering; instead rejoice that you get to suffer unfairly just as Christ suffered unfairly for us.

It sounds a little backwards and upside down. My innate sense of fair means I tend to want to pitch a fit and demand better. I want to “stand up for my rights” and honor myself. I want to tell people what’s right and what’s wrong. I want to rail against a system that would hold out on fairness! But God says to do just the opposite.  God says to quit demanding fair, and wait patiently for him. To honor him and look for his blessings. To live according to a hope that invites other people to want something better than fair. Because there is something better. A whole lot better. There is righteousness that shines like the dawn, and justice like the noon day. (Psalm 37:6)

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